More info on “Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird” from Marvel.com — including quotes from me and Karl Moline
I’m home from New York Comic Con 2013. Really amazing experience this year. I’m… having a lot of trouble processing how good it was, and how much happened.
The best thing for me this year was announcing my first series from Marvel Comics! It’s called “Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird,” and it’s a five issue miniseries debuting in January 2014, featuring art by Karl Moline and covers by Mike Del Mundo and Brian Crosby. And as you can tell from the title, it’s a collaboration between Marvel and Disney — specifically, Disney’s Imagineers, the people responsible for creating their theme parks!
Okay, some backstory… “Seekers of the Weird” is about this thing called the Museum of the Weird. Back in the ’60s when the Imagineers were first designing the Haunted Mansion, one of the Imagineers — a guy named Rolly Crump — decided he wanted to go in a different, much stranger direction from the other people involved. He really let his imagination go wild, without any concern for practicalities like how the stuff he was designing would fit in or what the overall concept was. He showed his designs to Walt Disney… who decided they were part of the “Museum of the Weird,” a collection of strange magical stuff from all over the world. Walt conceived of the Museum as an attraction attached to the Haunted Mansion… but unfortunately, Walt passed away before the Museum was realized, and Rolly’s designs have been gathering dust ever since. (This is all according to Rolly’s memoir, It’s Kind of a Cute Story
. There was an effort to turn the Museum into a new feature film franchise in 2010, but it didn’t come together.
So now, I get to help develop it! Marvel editor Bill Rosemann brought me into the project back in July. Since then I’ve been fleshing out the series with him, Brian Crosby and several other Disney Imagineers, and now our art staff. The process has been extremely collaborative. There’s a whole bunch of my ideas in it — but there’s also a lot of the Disney touch from the Imagineers, and Bill’s really good at making sure we’re telling a story “in the mighty Marvel manner.” The whole thing has been a really great experience — and I’m incredibly happy with the comic we’re producing.
"Seekers of the Weird" is the story of Maxwell and Melody Keep, a pair of high school students in New Orleans who get swept up in the ‘family business’ — securing dangerous magical artifacts in the "Museum of the Weird." The series has a film serial, "Indiana Jones" kind of pace to it — but with a bunch of other stuff mixed in, like Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean (the films, I mean).
Also? The art is GORGEOUS. I’ve been a huge fan of Karl Moline ever since he did “Fray” with Joss Whedon (I am, after all, a gigantic Whedonite) and “Loners” with CB Cebulski at Marvel. But as big a fan of him as I was to begin with… I’m still amazed by the pages he’s turning in. On top of that, we’ve got Mike Del Mundo doing our regular covers. I really feel like Mike’s one of the best cover artists in comics today. And the cherry on top is that Brian Crosby, Disney Imagineer and our main contact on the project, is doing designs for the characters in the series and is also providing variant covers.
If you’re already a fan of my work… do yourself a favor, and check “Seekers of the Weird” out. I think people are really going to love it. I’m going to keep reposting information and art from it as it gets released, and I’ll do some posts with links to Rolly Crump’s original designs that we’ve been basing everything on.
So, I’m going to be at New York Comic Con again this year! The catch is: I don’t have a table and I’m not really doing any signings or panels at the show. Yeah, I know. I’m weird.
BUT I’ve got a new project getting announced the Sunday of the show — and it’s a big one! Like, a really big one! I think any fans of my writing will want to check it out, especially fans of “Witch Doctor.” (No, before you ask: It’s not another “Witch Doctor” series. No news on that.)
I’ll also be doing a signing at Forbidden Planet NYC on Wednesday, and I’m a guest of "The Big NYCC Party" that Image Comics and Multiversity are throwing on Friday. Here’s details:
The “Image Comics Night” signing at Forbidden Planet NYC (832 Broadway) is Wednesday, October 9 at 7 pm. It also features Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare, Sina Grace, Michael Moreci, Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas, Nick Dragotta and Duffy Boudreau. Come get comics signed by me!
"The Big NYCC Party" is Friday, October 11 from 8 pm-Midnight, at Houndstooth Pub (on 8th Ave between 36th and 37th). It’s in the basement. Suggested $10 donation to the Heroes Initiative. It’s also got a CRAZY guest list — Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, Ron Marz, Kieron Gillen, Amy Reeder, Tim Seeley, Jim McCann, the Hoax Hunter dudes and a slew of other people will be there. This was a blast last year — but it was also packed to the gills. Like, subway-at-rush-hour packed. So leave your social anxiety at home (or drink until it chills out a bit), and come have a good time!
And again: Big announcement. Sunday. Watch the skies.
There was one thing I really liked about my last day job.
I spent three years as a security guard here in Portland. Sometimes, it drove me up the wall — especially after I started working as a professional comics writer, while still working a couple days a week in security. But there was one really nice thing about that job: At the end of each shift, I was done. That was all. I was finished, I could go home, change out of my uniform, and do whatever I wanted — until the next shift.
Comics, see, isn’t like that. Like a lot of jobs, working as a security guard is about putting in the hours they ask you. But comics is a job about completion. It doesn’t matter how many hours you put in, whether it’s four or forty — as long as you finish and file your work. If you blew a deadline, it doesn’t matter if you just spent 20 straight hours working on it. You blew your deadline.
And if time management and completing tasks doesn’t come naturally to you? That’s a challenge.
The last few months, I’ve done a lot of troubleshooting to try to be more on the ball with my comics work. I’ve tried a lot of things, from different work/life balances to getting prescribed medication for my ADHD. But the most helpful thing I’ve found so far is also the simplest. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique.
In Pomodoro Technique, you break your work time up into 25 minute chunks (“pomodori”). And while you’re working, that’s all you do — you choose one task, and you do nothing but work on it until either you finish or your timer goes off. Then when each pomodori ends, you take a short break — 3-5 minutes. That break is when you do everything that’s not work: Look at your texts, check your email, use the bathroom, eat a snack, refill your water, stretch your back. Then you do another pomodori, another 25 mintues. Every four pomodori (appox. two hours) is called a “set.” At the end of each “set” you take a longer break — 15-30 minutes. The idea is to get you to just focus on one task at a time — while taking regular breaks to let your mind and body recover.
(What’s with the weird name? “Pomodoro” means “tomato” in Italian. The guy who came up with the technique named it after the timer he used for it, which was shaped like a tomato.)
I first heard about Pomodoro from Justin Jordan, who swore by it. I didn’t bother trying it until recently, after Jeremy Barlow also vouched for it. I tried it for the first time — and was shocked at how much work I got done. I was also shocked about how much easier it was for me to get work done when I was just focusing on one thing at a time, and taking frequent breaks. The breaks really help. So does the shortness of each “pomodori.” Saying “I’m going to revise this script” can be intimidating. Saying “I’m going to revise this script — for the next 25 minutes, then take a five minute break” is way less so. The work time involved is manageable, and the breaks are a nice little “treat” at the end of each one. Plus, it helps me quantify how much time I’m spending on tasks. I record the time that I start each pomodori, and write down the overall task I was working on. Then at the end of the day or week, I can go back and calculate exactly how much time I spend, say, working on scripts versus doing promotional stuff.
Another thing that’s nice about Pomodoro is it helps you avoid Computer Vision Syndrome. CVS is what you get when you focus your eyes on a computer for too long: Blurred vision, neck pain, headaches, eye strain, double vision, etc. To avoid CVS doctors recommend that for every 20 minutes you spend looking at a computer, you then spend 20 seconds focusing on something else. So doing Pomodoro, with set breaks from your work every 25 minutes, is good for keeping you from getting CVS. (My eyes have certainly been a lot less blurry since I started.)
Pomodoro’s also been easy to combine with the internet-blocking apps I use when I’m working. I use Freedom for when I want to turn the internet off entirely, and Antisocial for when I just want to block specific sites. With both apps, you set how many minutes you want them to be active. So I commonly set them for 25 minutes, and use them as the timers for my pomodori.
Photo from the Pomodoro Technique website
I’m going to be a guest of the second annual Rose City Comic Con here in Portland! RCCC had a really stunning first year, and I’m really happy to be a part of it again.
The con is Saturday-Sunday, September 21-22 at the Oregon Convention Center. I’ll be at table i-02. For you Witch Doctor fans, Lukas is making it out to the show too — he’s at table p-05.
IMAGE COMICS (1-2 PM Saturday, Panel room 2)
For over two decades Image comics has been setting the bar on what can be done with independent comics. Hear what’s coming down the pike straight from the mouths of creators that own the work.
MONKEYBRAIN (2-3 PM Saturday, Panel room 2)
Monkeybrain is the new kid on the block in comic publishing. With their focus on digital comics and searching out the newest talent, they’re making waves in the industry that has all the companies watching. Join founders Chris Roberson and Allison Baker, along with some of Monkeybrain’s top talent as they give you the skinny on what they’re all about.
WHOVIANS UNITED (5-6PM Saturday, Panel room 4)
Jessica Trimble is the world’s largest collector of screen accurate Rose Tyler clothing. She has also had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with a costume designer from Doctor Who and runs multiple costuming and collecting communities. As a Doctor Who fan from Hartnell to Smith, Kevin Thayer is a fountain of information. Together Jessica and Kevin run both the Seattle and Portland Doctor Who pages.
SNEAKING INTO COMICS (1-2 PM Sunday, Panel room 2)
Most creators don’t “break in” to comics in a big, dramatic manner — they “sneak in” gradually, over the course of years. Join a mix of established and up-and-coming writers and artists as they share the “origin stories” of their careers and offer practical advice on how to get (and keep!) a job in comics. Moderated by Brandon Seifert (WITCH DOCTOR, HELLRAISER) and featuring Chris Roberson (EDISON REX, iZOMBIE), Joshua Williamson (MASKS & MOBSTERS, GHOSTED), Ibrahim Moustafa (HIGH CRIMES, THE POUND) and more.
Last week, my lady and I re-watched Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow.” Yes, the dream sequences and the villain’s “origin story” at the end are really on-the-nose. But other than that, it’s a great, fun movie.
Me being me (as I am), I decided to research Headless Horsemen to see what I might do with them in a story. And oh jeez you guys, I found so much good stuff!
“Sleepy Hollow” is based on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, which is the story most of us know Headless Horsemen from. But it turns out there’s a bunch of folklore about horse riders with severed heads — and it’s from all over the world.
India’s got entire armies of Headless Horsemen! According to William Crooke’s 1894 book “Introduction to the Popular Religion and Folklore of Northern India,” in the city of Fyzabad in India the country people avoided a portion of the Queen’s highway at night — because they said it’s filled with troops of headless horsemen! The horsemen are the dead of the army of Prince Sayvad Salar.
India’s main Headless Horseman seems to be the Dund, though. The Dund (which I’ve seen translated as “truncated” or “shorn”) keeps his severed head tied to the pommel of his horse’s saddle. He wields a sword in each hand… but I don’t know if he ever uses them. Instead, his M.O. is to ride around at night, calling at people’s doors. If you answer the Dund’s call, you die — but you die of a disease soon after the call, he doesn’t seem to cut you with swords or anything. The only way to get rid of a Dund is apparently to throw a really dirty piece of cloth over him. In 1882 The Times of London reported on a panic in the neighborhood of Agra, where all the locals refused to answer the door at night because they thought a Dund would get them.
Germany has lots of Headless Horseman tales. In “The German Legends of the Brothers Grimm” there are two folktales of Headless Horsemen. One of the folktales, “Hans Jagendteufel” (“Jack the Hunting Devil”) starts with a statement explaining that there’s a common belief that if someone commits a crime punishable by decapitation but goes unpunished for it in life, after death they’re condemned to “wander around” carrying their head under their arm. Some of the legends of the Wild Huntsman had the Huntsman as headless… and in some of them, the headless one was his horse. In lots of these tales, as with others from elsewhere, seeing a horseman without a head meant you were going to die soon.
The Irish Headless Horseman is called the Dullahan. But the Dullahan isn’t a ghost — he’s a faerie. The Dullahan also carries his severed head with him, either attached to his saddle or carried in one hand. The head’s got the color and texture of rotting cheese, and it grins literally from ear to ear. The Dullahan’s head glows — and he uses it like a lantern to light his way. And? The Dullahan’s horse? Also headless.
The Dullahan rides around the Irish countryside at night, using the light of his glowing severed head to locate people who are going to die. Kind of similar to the Dund, if he calls out your name and you hear him — you die, and the Dullahan takes your soul. If you have the misfortune to see a Dullahan, the Dullahan either blinds you by throwing a basin of blood in your eyes (where does he carry a basin on his horse? No idea), or blinds you with his whip. (His whip’s made of a human spine.) The Dullahan is extremely afraid of gold, though — to the point that if you show him something made of gold, even by accident, he’ll flee.
So — what kind of Headless Horseman is the one from Sleepy Hollow? In the original story, the Horseman’s supposed to be a Hessian — a soldier from the German state of Hesse who fought on the side of the British in the Revolutionary War. So, maybe he’s a German ghost like the Wild Huntsman. But the Hessians were used as mercenaries by the British, not just in America, but also in Ireland. So “Sleepy Hollow’s” Horseman could potentially be a Dullahan (if you fudge the details).
Anonymous asked: Not a question, just wanted to thank you for speaking out against the minimization & exploitation of rape in comics. It's heartening to see responsible, thoughtful men like yourself stepping up and speaking out. I will now be buying a bunch of your comics. :)
Thank you! I appreciate hearing that. I’m glad that post seems to have gone over well. :)
The monster you see is called a bakekujira, and it’s from Japan. I consulted with Japanese folklore expert Zack Davisson for the story, and he wrote a blog on his research about the bakekujira and other whale spirit-related stuff in Japan.
Supernatural Geographic is going to be pretty amazing, guys. I’m super excited to show you more!
This week, New Republic did a profile on Mark Millar, writer of comics like Kick-Ass, The Ultimates, Nemesis, The Authority, and many others. A big focus on the profile was the graphic violence Millar’s such a fan of — especially the graphic sexual violence. Here’s Millar’s perspective on the whole thing, from the article:
“The ultimate [act] that would be the taboo, to show how bad some villain is, was to have somebody being raped, you know?” he told me. “I don’t really think it matters. It’s the same as, like, a decapitation. It’s just a horrible act to show that somebody’s a bad guy.”
A lot of people in comics have been very unhappy about this, this week. Including me. I’ve gone back and forth about whether it’s something I want to talk about publicly… but in the end, I don’t think it’d be responsible for me not to talk about it.
So… TRIGGER WARNING time. I’m going to talk about rape.
My perspective on rape is heavily colored by the fact that I’m male. Not only that, I’m a broad-shouldered, 6’4” two hundred and mumble mumble pounds heterosexual male, living in a safe city in a safe country, who’s never done jail time and wasn’t molested or abused as a kid. And as such, I have never for one single moment of my entire life worried that someone might rape me. This obviously gives me a very different view of the whole thing from the women in my life, who seem to fall into two broad categories: “Women who’ve never been raped and are actively trying to keep it that way,” and “Women who’ve been raped and are actively trying to make sure it never happens to them again.”
I don’t write rape scenes in my comics. The closest I’ve gotten so far is in Spirit of the Law, in which a hitman threatens his victim with rape — but he gets stopped when one of the other hitmen threatens to shoot him for it. Even writing this scene made me really uncomfortable. And ever since then, I’ve worried even that scene crosses a line I’m not okay corssing.
Because the thing is: Rape is violence. But that’s not all it is. It’s also defilement — having your body violated and desecrated. And it’s an interruption over your agency, your control over your body and your life. On top of all that, rape victims often end up feeling that they were complicit in their own attack (“I should’ve told him no again,” or “I should’ve tried to fight him off harder,” or “I hate myself because I just froze up while it was happening.”). It’s awful, it’s scarring, and for a lot of people it sticks with them very vividly, for a very long time. And for a lot of people, those memories are very easily triggered… by, for instance, seeing a rape scene on TV or reading one in a comic.
Rape is also ridiculously, sickeningly common. One in six women in America reports having someone at least try to rape her. But honestly, in my experience? I feel like it’s more like one in four women. Or one in three. There have been times in my life when it seemed like every women in my life had been roofied at a bar, or followed into a bathroom by a guy at a party, or got forced to do things she didn’t want to do by a boyfriend, or was date raped, or was molested by a family friend, or… Or… Or…
And the very least I can do? As a friend, and as a responsible adult? Is not to write comics that cause people I care about to relive some of the most horrific events of their lives.
Co.Create’s article "How To Be Prolific: Guidelines For Getting It Done From Joss Whedon" doesn’t quite do what it says on the tin. Some of the points he discusses do indeed seem like good tips for actually getting things done — rewarding yourself for getting things done, working on the aspects of a project that most excite you first to build your interest in the project overall, “Get it done, Johnny Reb.” But some of the other points just seem like ways to help your be more nuanced and interesting.
Of these, “Fill The Tanks” resonates strongly with me. “I read The Killer Angels. It’s a very detailed, extraordinarily compelling account of the Battle of Gettysburg from the point of view of various people in it and it’s historical. It’s historically completely accurate, and the moment I put it down I created Firefly, because I was like, ‘I need to tell this story. I need to feel this immediacy. I so connect with that era, the Western and how tactile everything is and how every decision is life or death, and how hard it is and how just rich it is, and how all the characters are just so fascinating.’ But so I should be on the Millennium Falcon. Now, if I only watched sci-fi I would have just had the Millennium Falcon part, which has already been done, but finding that historical texture, it literally, I put the book down and started writing Firefly.”
I love that. And it’s not just because “The Killer Angels” was a book high school forced me to read that’s in a genre (historical fiction about the Civil War) I have no affinity for… only to end up being hands down one of the best novels I’ve ever read.
When I started working on Witch Doctor, I wanted to do a supernatural horror story that was in the vein of my favorite supernatural horror stuff. So I re-read Lovecraft, I re-watched Buffy and Angel, and I got into things like Hellboy and Supernatural that I’d never checked out before. And since it was also going to be a medical drama, I also watched a few episodes of House (although far fewer than most readers seem to assume). But I didn’t want WD to be influenced just by what’d already been done in the genres it was mashing up.
So I read about science. So much science. Books about Ebola and Mad Cow and Smallpox. Books about bloodfeeding animals and the CDC and deep sea animals. Articles and websites about evolutionary biology and parasites and bioluminescence. And I read about magic and folklore, too. Voodoo, Southeast Asian monster beliefs. Before doing a story about demonic possession, I didn’t just re-wattch The Exorcist — I read two non-fiction books about Catholic possession beliefs and the Vatican’s exorcists.
How much of that research made it onto the page? Very little. But what did get through, I think really enriched the world of Witch Doctor, and is part of why our readers seem to love the series so rabidly. (Although when I brought up this hypothesis on Twitter, a bunch of the book’s fans chimed in to tell me, nicely, that I was missing the point and they like the book for a lot more than the things that inspired me to write it in the first place.)
Postscript: After I wrote this on Thursday, my girlfriend and I went to Comics Underground. It’s an irregularly-held live reading of comics by their creators, in a bar. After that, we went to the Doug Fir Lounge to see Run On Sentence. They’re a Portland-based band that mixes classic swing, blues, country, Latin rhythms, a whole bunch of stuff.
Part and parcel to all of this, I had some drinks.
And at some point in the night, I suddenly got what Joss was saying in this article. When the interviewer asked him ‘how are you so prolific?’ Joss said ‘I invite my friends along.’ When the interview asked him ‘how are you so prolific?’ Joss said ‘I watch a lot of movies.’ But Joss wasn’t really answering the question the interviewer was asked. He was answering the question “How are you so prolific, without going totally crazy?”
Which is the real question for any busy creative type.